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AOL can’t seem to get anything right these days. If I were Jason Calacanis, I’d be thinking about looking for another job before the company tanks.
Tech Crunch reports that AOL released data that included 20 million queries by 650,000 AOL users from a 3-month period this year. Says TechCrunch:

“The utter stupidity of this is staggering. AOL has released very private data about its users without their permission. While the AOL username has been changed to a random ID number, the abilitiy to analyze all searches by a single user will often lead people to easily determine who the user is, and what they are up to. The data includes personal names, addresses, social security numbers and everything else someone might type into a search box. To avoid issues like this companies like document shredding Melbourne
ensure all the information is going to be properly destroyed.

Really scary stuff in the searches includes plans to commit murder, buy drugs, etc.
Official AOL response included:

“This was a screw up, and we’re angry and upset about it. It was an innocent enough attempt to reach out to the academic community with new research tools, but it was obviously not appropriately vetted, and if it had been, it would have been stopped in an instant.
Andrew Weinstein
AOL Spokesperson”

To bury the AOL brand image a little deeper, The St Louis Post-Dispatch reports that AOL won’t even cancel the accounts of dead people, even when their family sends the nine month-old obit. As the reporter notes, AOL is “now a punch line on late-night television and in cyberspace.”
Of course people whose identity is stolen won’t be laughing when thieves get their social security numbers, credit cards numbers and other sensitive data from the released searches.